There are many reasons why we wanted to visit Flores. Have you ever heard of komodo dragons? Well, there are only a few places where you can find them. And, Indonesia is the only country where they live. Apart from relaxing in Bali or on the Gili Islands, Flores is definitely worth a visit. If you want to see very unique animals, amazing landscapes or spend a few hours on a deserted island, you will need to go there.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND KOMODO DRAGONS?
You would need to fly to Labuan Bajo (pronounced Labuan badzo) in the west of Flores. We flew from Bali and it was only a 1 hour flight. Make sure to get a window seat. Flying over Indonesia is an amazing experience. From the airport, it takes only 15 minutes to get to the city and we paid 50.000 RP for the taxi (3 €). The city is very small. It has an industrial harbor, few restaurants and hotels, a lot of dive shops, and tourist offices. It is a very basic tourist town. Plenty of options for you to book tours in order to get to the islands around the west coast of Flores.
SO WHAT ARE THESE KOMODO DRAGONS?
Known as komodo monitor they are the largest species of lizards and can be found on the Indonesian islands: Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Padar and Gila Motang. They have been on the planet for over a million years and unfortunately face extinction today. However, the national parks are doing a great job with protecting them. Komodo dragons are also the heaviest lizards on Earth. They have long, flat heads with rounded snouts, scaly skin, bowed legs, and huge tails. They can grow up to 3 meters and weigh up to 80 kilos, male dragons even up to 100 kilos.
Their saliva with 50 strains of bacteria is very poisonous and a stricken animal usually dies of blood poisoning within 24 hours. Komodo dragons are truly the kings on the island and dominate their ecosystem. They literally will eat anything but only meat, so basically all types of invertebrates, birds, mammals, including huge buffaloes and, yes, humans. They can run up to 18 km per hour in very short bursts. So you really don’t want to mess with them 😀 We saw in total 7 Komodo dragons.
WE HAD AN UNFORGETTABLE TOUR TO RINCA TO SEE KOMODO DRAGONS, AMAZING KELOR AND BIDADARI ISLANDS
As I mentioned above, there are millions of tourist offices in Labuan Bajo. So you don’t have to worry about pre-booking a tour on the internet, it is usually more expensive anyway. We booked our tour in the tourist information office, as Lonely Planet gave them a good review. We thought it is a good idea to go there. And, it was a great idea. The service was outstanding and Emanuel, who organized everything for us, was incredibly helpful. One of the best tours of all times. We decided to book a private boat as it gave us more flexibility. We choose to see Rinca Island first as many travelers have seen most of the dragons on Rinca Island. The private boat to Rinca cost us 1.5 mil RP (100 €), including snorkeling gear, lunch box and water. It is a 2 hours boat ride from Labuan Bajo. The tour included 2 more islands which we could pick on our own. But Emanuel advised us to see Kelor and Bidadari Islands. A very good choice.
HOW OUR DAY LOOKED LIKE
It is 6.30 AM and we are waking up in Le Pirate, our hotel, going for our first pirate expedition. Just kidding, no pirates in the sea 😀 Thanks, God. Emanuel got us fins, lunch boxes and water. He was so helpful. He even got me motion sickness pills as I forgot mine in Bali. We got to our boat and captain Jack and his assistant Johannes were waiting for us with a big smile. We introduced ourselves and headed to our first stop: Rinca Island, to see the komodo dragons. The boat is a typical Indonesian boat and it is a very, very loud one. The engine makes so much noise, that when we were on the beach or in the city, we really thought that helicopters are in the air.
FIRST STOP: RINCA ISLAND, WHERE YOU CAN SEE KOMODO DRAGONS
Once you arrive in Rinca you will walk to the place where they sell tickets and where you will need to take a local guide. You cannot walk on your own, as it is dangerous. Dragons can attack you, and that’s why your guide will have a stick to protect you. It is difficult to say how much the tickets are, as prices seem to differ for each traveler. We paid 300.000 RP per person. This includes tickets to the park, 80.000 fee for the guide, fees for taking pictures, an additional fee to make a videos etc. Overall, just lots of different fees. Luckily, there is no fee for breathing air there 😀
We read some of the reviews and also met few people and all of them paid different prices. What I really didn’t like about Indonesia is that there are very rarely prices displayed, and you never know how much things cost. It seems like that tourist officers can ask for any price, depending on their mood, or what price comes to their mind first. That was the same in grocery stores and practically everywhere else.
SEEING KOMODO DRAGONS
Anyways, captain Jack told us that we can spend 1.5 hours on Rinca Island. So, I didn’t want to spend our precious time arguing with the ticketing officer. Our guide armed with a wooden stick was very knowledgeable and explained us everything about the komodo dragons. We walked a bit further from the ticket office and headed to the kitchen. And here they are 🙂 5 huge dragons lying on the ground.
They are attracted by the smell from the kitchen and that’s why they like to hang around there. They seemed a bit drowsy, but the guide explained that they are just pretending to sleep. Dragons are very patient animals and waiting for their victims to be distracted and then attack.
Very important: Do not walk away from your guide. You are really safe and he knows where to go and he is there to protect you. There were few people who walked away from their guides to take a selfie or picture and were attacked by dragons.
On this island you will also see other animals like bulls and monkeys: Komodo dragons’ favorite dishes. After a detailed tour and seeing several dragons we had this beautiful view from Rinca Island.
SECOND STOP: KELOR ISLAND
After 45 minutes on the “helicopter boat” we arrived at our second stop. It was a very small and deserted island with a white sand beach and perfect turquoise waters, called: Kelor Island. As we had only around 1 hour, we wanted to climb up to the hill for the view. It is not very easy to climb up as it is steep and just a dirty, dusty path but we didn’t mind. The view was so amazing, I could not believe what I was seeing. You can also snorkel here and enjoy the warm water of the Java Sea.
THIRD STOP: BIDADARI ISLAND
Bidadari Beach was our last stop. After the first stops we were so happy and overwhelmed that we were sure that it can’t get any better. But there it was, our last stop, a pink beach.
To be precise, a pink sand beach and barely tourists. It was definitely the cherry on top. You can see so many tropical fish, just 2 meters away from the shore. Snorkeling is truly amazing in Flores.
I do highly recommend to take this tour, and especially to take a private boat. We enjoyed it a lot, the fact that we were alone, without waiting for others was really pleasant. Besides, to see dragons and the beautiful islands made our day unforgettable.
WONDER WHERE TO STAY IN LABUAN BAJO?
STAY IN THE HOTEL “LE PIRATE ”
We stayed in a cute hotel called Le Pirate which is right in the heart of the town with incredible harbor views and only 10 minutes away from the airport. They have super cute rooms, also a restaurant & bar, a rooftop sky bar with live music, an outdoor cinema and a plunge pool.
So if you fancy some pirate fun, then this is for you.
Enjoy your trip to Flores. I hope that you will see many dragons and enjoy the views.
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